Originally Published: Big League Stew - Yahoo! Sports
Chris Cwik, Writer
Baseball history has been made. Pitcher Sean Conroy of the Sonoma Stompers became the first openly gay active baseball player, according to Lisa Leff and Olga Rodriguez of the Associated Press. And he posted one heck of a start Thursday while his club celebrated Pride Night.
The Stompers are part of the independent Pacific Association of Baseball Clubs. They are not affiliated with Major League Baseball. That didn't stop MLB historian John Thorn from confirming Conroy was the first active gay baseball player, according to the AP.
"Of course that over the years there have been rumors of this Major League player or that one being gay, but that's just idle chatter and counts for nothing," Thorn said. "In terms of an openly gay player as (the) pitcher in your neck of the woods, we haven't had one yet."
Both Glenn Burke and Billy Bean have come out, but neither player did so while they were still active players, according to Thorn.
The 23-year-old Conroy served as the Stompers' closer to begin the season, but started on Thursday for Pride Night. If the added attention made him nervous, he didn't show it.
Conroy went the distance, tossing a complete game shutout against the Vallejo Admirals. He allowed just three hits and struck out 11 batters during the contest.
Conroy has been open about his sexual orientation since he was 16-years-old. He told his high school, summer league and college teammates about his sexuality, and said it would be strange to keep it from the Stompers once he joined the club.
Conroy spoke with team general manager Theo Fightmaster and his teammates privately before coming out publicly. He agreed to come out to the general public before the team celebrated gay pride night.
The decision to come out is not has nothing to do with the added attention, according to Conroy.
"It's not that I wanted it to go public, but I didn't care if it was open information. It's who I am," he said. "I am definitely surprised that no one else has been openly gay in baseball yet."
Because of that, the Stompers will not make an announcement regarding Conroy's milestone. Instead, they will allow Conroy to focus on pitching. Some of Conroy's teammates will wear rainbow socks or other gay pride symbols as part of their uniforms in order to show support for Conroy, however.
Bean, who is MLB's ambassador for inclusion, said he was encouraged by the announcement.
"It will be a great day for the LGBT community. I hope he pitches well and gets another opportunity to start another game," Bean said. "It doesn't matter if he pitches in the big leagues or not, he's going to become a leader (tonight) in many ways, an influential leader for a lot of young kids not only in that community but those who will read the story and who may be pondering that same decision in their teenage years and they want to be baseball players or they want to be football players."
As Bean indicated in his statement, it doesn't really matter whether Conroy makes it to the majors. If his announcement inspires others, that will be enough.
Depending on how well Conroy is received, his actions might even encourage a current major-league player to come out. Conroy may not play in the majors, but his decision could be the first step toward something bigger.